pdxcher

Meal planning taking too long - help!

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This is my first post and honestly, I'm too mentally unstable right now from stress to search and read. I decided, for ease of meal planning to follow the book's week 1. Not bad. dropped $400, wrecked my budget. That sucked. But the food is good (I'm on day 2), I love how fresh everything is. But here's the problem. Prep time is taking 4 hours. I don't have 4 hours. I got 5 hours of sleep last night. I worked late and started stressing out because I wouldn't have time to clean-up from the night before, cook dinner, and prep for the next day. The scary part is that BF is helping me prep and it's taking that long.

With that, although we are reusing food (leftovers), I need something more along the lines of bulk cooking on one day to get most of our meals done or prepped. I'm off Sat/Sun, BF is off Tue/Wed so it's not like we can do it together and make it go by faster. Oh, and I hate cooking. This is reminding me why I hate it is much. Haha.

Are there any good meals/recipes/items that are good to cook in bulk? And really, are you eating the same thing 4 or more times a week? My goal was to NOT find my favorite 5 recipes and keep repeating, but seriously, I am going to have a mental breakdown. ETA: BF doesn't want to eat red meat nor pork if possible

Warning, B session coming up. Here was my day yesterday. What am I doing wrong? Cuz seriously, I am not going to be able to sustain this lifestyle, not even for 30 days. I'm exhausted and dislike taking pain killers every night because my back hurts from prepping! I see that this is going to be the norm this week and I don't think I'm going to survive. Did I mention that grocery shopping for 4 days took 8 hours and 3 stores? I am going to be healthy and have absolutely no life. Oh joy (major sarcasm).  Warning, B session coming up.

  • Up at 7am, get ready for work, get meals packed
  • Lunch was spent grocery shopping (got in a ton of steps though) - oh joy
  • Worked late, until about 6:30pm
  • Got home, started the laundry, unloaded the dishwasher from the previous night, reloaded it
  • Start looking at what I need for prep (ingredients)
  • BF comes home around 7:30pm, I made dinner (that was fast/easy due to prepping the night before)
  • I folded the laundry, he unloaded the dishwasher and cleaned up a bit, I started on bills
  • We start prep work around 9pm (felt bad using my food processor at 10:30pm)
  • We finished around 11:30 and now it was time to pack the food and clean up a bit
  • Finally finished and then took a shower around 12:30am
  • Took some Aleve for my back/leg/foot/shoulder pain
  • Finally went to bed at 1:30am
  • Hit 12,000 steps AGAIN (I have a desk job, so this is 3x more than normal)

Please help me. :|

I keep reading that people lose weight on this plan. If I lose weight, it'll be from moving non-stop cooking and prepping meals. And I'm going to end up in a mental hospital from the stress and lack of rest. Ugh. Thanks for reading, I need help. Meal planning is something I am absolutely horrible at.

 

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Here's what I do that simplifies things for me, so I don't feel like I'm spending all my time cooking. 

1. Batch cook veggies. A couple times a week I roast a ton of sweet potatoes, squash, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, etc in the oven and have them in the fridge meals over the next few days. Same with steaming broccoli/greens/green beans. 

2. Whatever I eat for dinner one night gets used for at least one meal the next day. 

3. If something requires a lot of prep (like making cauliflower rice in the food processor) I make extra and freeze it in pre-portioned bags for future use. 

M1 is usually leftover veggies with eggs or chicken sausage plus avocado or ghee. 

M2 is usually leftover dinner from the night before, sometimes with different veggies. 

M3 I usually prep a new protein and use pre-cooked veggies. 

I hope this helps! 

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You might look at this batch cooking method -- with the two of you having different days off, you could even split it so you do some on your days off, and then he does some on his, so neither of you have to spend as much time cooking. Or if he loves cooking, he could do the bulk of it, and you could just do a few things to get you through between his cooking days. I also like this no recipe required idea.

Personally, I don't use a ton of recipes, per se -- I may try one or two every couple of weeks if I see something that sounds good. Instead, I grill or bake a bunch of chicken, make some kind of beef (usually just ground beef, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic & onion, sometimes a roast or stew or chili or meatballs), roast a bunch of veggies, make some mayo and maybe another sauce/dip or two, keep canned tuna and salmon on hand, clean and chop some other veggies (if they'll hold up for a while -- I prefer to just chop zucchini as I need it, but broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage all hold up pretty well even once they've been washed and cut up), and also have some frozen chicken and burger patties I can cook from frozen if I really need to, plus some bags of frozen vegetables, and even some canned vegetables like artichoke hearts. I might also hard boil a dozen eggs, although they're not my favorite so I don't do that every week. Depending on the week, I try to cook enough for either the whole week, or if I know I'm going to have time mid-week, I might just do enough for a few days. Then I just mix and match my proteins, vegetables, and sauces at each meal.

It is okay to have some basic standby recipes that you eat a lot. I think most people do. When you have time, then try some new recipes.

 

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2 hours ago, pdxcher said:

And really, are you eating the same thing 4 or more times a week?

Absolutely! My week so far: chicken thighs, steamed brocoli, roasted sweet potato, cherry tomatoes and avocado for breakfast every week. (Bake a huge tray of boneless skinless chx thighs on Sunday, eat all week, throw several white or sweet potatoes in on the bottom rack at the same time, steam brocoli while you are blowdrying your hair in the morning).  Total hands on prep time: less than 5 minutes to throw the chicken on a pan and the potatoes in the oven and about 2 minutes each day to put on a plate and reheat.

Lunches are always leftovers of what we had for dinner the night before. This week: pork meatloaf (total hands on time for prep: less than 5 minutes to season and mix up the pork and throw in the oven), kale slaw (from a bag with homemade or compliant dressing - no prep time), roasted chicken (prep time: 10 minutes to spatchcock, season and throw in the oven), steamed green beans with sesame oil drizzled, coleslaw (again with the dressing), compliant baked sausages with poached eggs & refried potatoes, chocolate chili (hands on cooking about 15 minutes and I always do a double batch because it doesn't take longer but you have lots or can freeze some), taco salads (use the chocolate chili as the meat).

Some other super fast ideas:
garbage frittata (ie, all the leftovers in your fridge, sauteed and poured over with egg until set)
BAS (big @ss salad) topped with canned protein like salmon or tuna
omelettes
soup (example: leftover roasted veggies, chopped up leftover chicken, poured over with broth and some coconut milk, ginger, lemon juice and simmered)

On weeknights I (and my husband) don't have an expectation of mind-blowing gourmet food. We eat basic food that is well flavoured and properly cooked.  Scale your expectations of gourmet meals if that's what you're trying to do. You'll get faster with practice, too and when you have some standbys that you like and get good at/quicker at, that'll help.

And finally, the biggest and most helpful tip that you will ever hear: always cook more than you are going to eat right now!!!!!!!!!!!! If you're cooking burgers, make 8 or 10. If you're making chili, double it. If you're roasting veggies, chop/roast as many as you can fit on trays in your oven. If you're roasting a chicken, do two. If you're baking a sweet potato, put half a dozen in there. Double batch of mayo or sunshine sauce. Dozen hard boiled eggs. 

 

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Just one more quick question, @pdxcher - what was your routine like before you started Whole30? Did you cook at all? If so, what? Maybe we can help you adapt your previous habits to Whole30?

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It all depends on where/how you want to spend your time/energy/money.  Sauteeing vegetables and hate the time it takes to chop them?  Buy some frozen veggies, especially if they are going in a saute or a stew.  (Raw salad, maybe not.)  Lately I've been buying pre-spiralized zucchini and sweet potatoes in the produce dept.  More expensive?  Yes.  Time and clean-up saver?  Absolutely.  Worth it?  Most definitely (for me, at this time).  Knowing how to make your favorite 5 meals will save you a lot of time/stress.  But if you decide that you don't want to do that, the trade-off is you're going to have to spend the time/energy to make it happen.

And yes, when I make something I want to last 4-5 meals and have no problem eating it for days on end.  My current "record" is eating the exact same thing 10 meals in a row.  (It was a giant crockpot full of curry.)

Little tips that can help: make sure you've read all the way through any recipes and steps, and you know approximately how long everything will take.  I have a mental map of the stores I go to, so I know exactly where to go and what to grab in the store and I'm not wasting time there.  (8 hours of shopping? Ouch.)  If you do meal plan for the week, knowing that meals on Tuesday and Wednesday both involve red peppers means they could be chopped at the same time.  

Batch cooking:  I really like my crockpot.  (Stews, curries, chicken cooked with salsa and shredded.)   Meatballs cook up well (I like cooking them in the oven, not the stovetop) and are easy to freeze into handy serving sizes.  I've cooked some casserole-type dishes and frozen them.  (Paleo shepherd's pie, for instance.)

 

Good luck!

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Like @slc_melissa I often choose convenience and leftovers are a dream come true for me. If I cook a chili or curry or stew I'm thrilled to eat it for several days (and I also freeze half). I am always stocked with individually frozen chicken breasts and salmon filets and Trader Joe's grass fed beef burgers and chili lime chicken burgers. These can be defrosted very quickly and thrown in the oven or on the George Forman grill. Sweet potato slices or other roasted veggies cook quickly and there is a huge variety of high quality frozen vegetables available--pre-chopped. And Trader Joe's has peeled garlic and every king OD fresh chopped vegetables. I always hard boil eggs for the week. With the aid of pre-made mayo and ghee I have mastered the art of arriving home from the pool and putting together a compliant meal from scratch in 30 minutes. Or less. 

A Whole30 can be as complex or simple, or as cheap or expensive, as you want it to be. 

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Before I start replying. I just want to say thank you to everyone. Of course, the two days BF was off work, he made it easier and and I also think he had easier days so I've calmed down a bit. I'm also in the hangover state badly today, so I'm very mellow cuz I can't think. Now to reply. If I didn't reply to you directly, just know that I read what you wrote and am taking all advice and seeing what will work for me.

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On 2/28/2017 at 11:21 AM, ShannonM816 said:

You might look at this batch cooking method -- with the two of you having different days off, you could even split it so you do some on your days off, and then he does some on his, so neither of you have to spend as much time cooking. Or if he loves cooking, he could do the bulk of it, and you could just do a few things to get you through between his cooking days. I also like this no recipe required idea.

Personally, I don't use a ton of recipes, per se -- I may try one or two every couple of weeks if I see something that sounds good. Instead, I grill or bake a bunch of chicken, make some kind of beef (usually just ground beef, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic & onion, sometimes a roast or stew or chili or meatballs), roast a bunch of veggies, make some mayo and maybe another sauce/dip or two, keep canned tuna and salmon on hand, clean and chop some other veggies (if they'll hold up for a while -- I prefer to just chop zucchini as I need it, but broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage all hold up pretty well even once they've been washed and cut up), and also have some frozen chicken and burger patties I can cook from frozen if I really need to, plus some bags of frozen vegetables, and even some canned vegetables like artichoke hearts. I might also hard boil a dozen eggs, although they're not my favorite so I don't do that every week. Depending on the week, I try to cook enough for either the whole week, or if I know I'm going to have time mid-week, I might just do enough for a few days. Then I just mix and match my proteins, vegetables, and sauces at each meal.

It is okay to have some basic standby recipes that you eat a lot. I think most people do. When you have time, then try some new recipes.

 

 

Oh...I think I might like this idea the best. Mix and match. Kinda like clothes (I suck about planning for that too - I'm a horrible shopper). I also like the idea of BF cooking as much on his days off as I have. He can cook the meats, I'll do the veggies (our forte's). What kind of sauces do you use/have?

 

On 2/28/2017 at 10:28 AM, Dreamlet said:

Here's what I do that simplifies things for me, so I don't feel like I'm spending all my time cooking. 

1. Batch cook veggies. A couple times a week I roast a ton of sweet potatoes, squash, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, etc in the oven and have them in the fridge meals over the next few days. Same with steaming broccoli/greens/green beans. 

2. Whatever I eat for dinner one night gets used for at least one meal the next day. 

3. If something requires a lot of prep (like making cauliflower rice in the food processor) I make extra and freeze it in pre-portioned bags for future use. 

M1 is usually leftover veggies with eggs or chicken sausage plus avocado or ghee. 

M2 is usually leftover dinner from the night before, sometimes with different veggies. 

M3 I usually prep a new protein and use pre-cooked veggies. 

I hope this helps! 

 

#2 is definitely something I'm getting used to. I try to add a different sauce or veggie so it's not exactly the same. I hate leftovers, but I'm trying. Also remembering to make extra for leftovers specifically isn't easy. BF eats a lot! But he tends to eat it at like 1am! So what I think is leftovers is gone by the morning. :( Sigh. Gotta make more food. I like the idea of roasting and steaming veggies. I can do that. :)

 

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On 2/28/2017 at 1:09 PM, ladyshanny said:

Absolutely! My week so far: chicken thighs, steamed brocoli, roasted sweet potato, cherry tomatoes and avocado for breakfast every week. (Bake a huge tray of boneless skinless chx thighs on Sunday, eat all week, throw several white or sweet potatoes in on the bottom rack at the same time, steam brocoli while you are blowdrying your hair in the morning).  Total hands on prep time: less than 5 minutes to throw the chicken on a pan and the potatoes in the oven and about 2 minutes each day to put on a plate and reheat.

Lunches are always leftovers of what we had for dinner the night before. This week: pork meatloaf (total hands on time for prep: less than 5 minutes to season and mix up the pork and throw in the oven), kale slaw (from a bag with homemade or compliant dressing - no prep time), roasted chicken (prep time: 10 minutes to spatchcock, season and throw in the oven), steamed green beans with sesame oil drizzled, coleslaw (again with the dressing), compliant baked sausages with poached eggs & refried potatoes, chocolate chili (hands on cooking about 15 minutes and I always do a double batch because it doesn't take longer but you have lots or can freeze some), taco salads (use the chocolate chili as the meat).

Some other super fast ideas:
garbage frittata (ie, all the leftovers in your fridge, sauteed and poured over with egg until set)
BAS (big @ss salad) topped with canned protein like salmon or tuna
omelettes
soup (example: leftover roasted veggies, chopped up leftover chicken, poured over with broth and some coconut milk, ginger, lemon juice and simmered)

On weeknights I (and my husband) don't have an expectation of mind-blowing gourmet food. We eat basic food that is well flavoured and properly cooked.  Scale your expectations of gourmet meals if that's what you're trying to do. You'll get faster with practice, too and when you have some standbys that you like and get good at/quicker at, that'll help.

And finally, the biggest and most helpful tip that you will ever hear: always cook more than you are going to eat right now!!!!!!!!!!!! If you're cooking burgers, make 8 or 10. If you're making chili, double it. If you're roasting veggies, chop/roast as many as you can fit on trays in your oven. If you're roasting a chicken, do two. If you're baking a sweet potato, put half a dozen in there. Double batch of mayo or sunshine sauce. Dozen hard boiled eggs. 

 

 

Wow! I know I couldn't eat the same thing everyday, however, I'm starting to see how I can mix it up. BTW, I love frittata's simply because you can put whatever you want in it! Oh, and we don't have any expectations either, but I know I get bored of food fast (well, especially things I don't love - which is most food), so it's hard to keep eating grilled chicken regardless of the flavor added. BF feeling bad for pigs/cows doesn't help (I want beef and pork!), haha. I think I need to work on that final tip. Typically, as I stated in a previous post, BF eats at night. So, for example, the other night, we made 5 chicken breasts. I ate 1 for dinner as did he. He ate a second around midnight. As I packed our meals, there was 1.5 chicken breasts remaining. Ugh! I have made "serves 6" and it's gone by the morning. I even made him snacks, no, he doesn't eat that. Sigh. I seriously think he sleep-eats (like sleep walking, but eating) because he even said he just picks what he wants, he's not thinking about what is available. So, I need to think, if I'm making 4 chicken breasts with leftovers, make 8 so maybe there'll be 2. :P But seriously, thanks. :)

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On 2/28/2017 at 1:23 PM, ladyshanny said:

Just one more quick question, @pdxcher - what was your routine like before you started Whole30? Did you cook at all? If so, what? Maybe we can help you adapt your previous habits to Whole30?

Ah, good question. It's the same problem. I hate cooking. If I had to plan a week, I'd grab 5 recipes (for dinner only) and go buy all the food. Dinner was eaten only for dinner. Leftovers were rarely eaten. Lunch was on our own (usually I'd eat out with co-workers or have a sandwich at home). BF likes to cook, but many times, he's super tired. He doesn't get home until almost 8pm and doesn't always want to cook either. So, let's just say I end up doing the majority of it....or picking up fast/to go food. He never ate breakfast and IF he ate lunch, he'd get something at a local restaurant. I sometimes would eat breakfast, but it was typically a piece of fruit or oatmeal. Unfortunately, it's all very bad habits compared to W30. Also, we cooked a lot of Asian dishes (that went out the door with soy and rice). He recently decided he didn't want to eat red meat or pork anymore (I only like white fish and some shellfish), which doesn't leave me many options.

I'm also horrible at seasoning things (for the seasoning for my steamed spinach this morning). I'm fine with bland food, I don't really care. It's probably because I hate cooking. I'm the type that forgets ingredients (main ones too) or who doesn't care or doesn't add things if I'm not going to eat it. I'm fine eating sandwiches all day long. But y'know, no bread, so....I need real food. :P

I think the other problem is the grocery shopping. I don't know how much I have to do alone. I hate that too. I may use our local store's online and pick-up for products I know I can get w/o having to pick the prettier avocado, but otherwise, hate grocery shopping too.

I know I sound super whiny, but I am trying and I also want to give you a realistic view of my life pre-W30. I'm mainly doing this to get away from the sugar and to figure out how foods affect me.

Thoughts?

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Make friends with your freezer! When you have time to batch cook, make a ton and freeze in smaller portions. I do this with salmon cakes a lot (sounds like you don't like salmon, but just an example). Chili, meatballs, lots of other things are freezer-friendly. Frozen veggies are usually cheaper than fresh and pretty quick to fix. I also keep frozen hamburger patties that are supposed to be cooked frozen, so they don't even need any defrosting time.... which leads me to ask, would it be a problem for you and your bf to eat different things? If you'd be happier with some beef and pork, can you make those for yourself and he can stick with chicken and fish? That would also guarantee your leftovers to still be there in the morning!

I'll second (third?) what others have said, in that my meals are typically simple, mix and match style. I just don't have time to come home every evening and make anything that requires opening a cookbook. With some trial and error you'll probably find a few meals you really like that will become your go-tos. Remember you can scale up most recipes too - for example, I always make a double batch of mayo and have never had it go bad before I could eat it all. I like to add horseradish or mustard to use as a dip with meat and/or veggies.

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This site has a ton of recipes, most of them Whole30. For sauces in particular, look for her Zingy Ginger Dressing, which she calls a salad dressing, and it's good for that, but it's also good on top of chicken or vegetables, or the last bit of the week's fritatta when you're beyond bored with it, the Sunshine Sauce (can be made with almond butter if that's easier to find than sunbutter), she's got several versions of pesto, and the Moroccan Dipping Sauce is really good (it's actually on the same page as a chicken recipe that I really like).  She's really big on spices, so you might get more ideas about different flavors looking through her stuff too.

Mayo is great, you can dip your veggies in it as is, or you can add herbs and spices to change the flavor -- if you have an immersion blender, this is the easiest way to make it.

There are other sauces/dips here or here.

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You've gotten great tips and tricks for how to batch cook and meal plan, but I'm going to suggest one other thing.  You mention 'hating' cooking and shopping a lot... that's a lot of negative energy that you're now battling against as you try and do things that you don't particularly care for.  No one is saying you have to love it, but maybe try re-framing your thoughts and feelings a bit? Maybe instead of saying you hate it, you can say you're 'learning to cook' or 'learning how to shop efficiently'.  Because you have 30 days (or more) of doing this and hating every minute of it is going to make it much easier to quit... 

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I just wanted to say thanks for all the responses!

I'll tell you what I finally did....I bought an Instant Pot! It's not perfect, but omg, so much better. It doesn't solve all my problems, but it has cut down on dishes and that was also a point of contention. It also makes me happier about cooking because I don't have to babysit it. Granted, it freaks out my dog so that makes me sad. I also decided one of the biggest issues too, while cooking, was lack of space. I took away the toaster and Ninja blender. Added my food processor and Instant Pot. May take away my KitchenAid mixer also. We lost our kitchen table to all our fruits and veggies so I pulled out a tv tray.

I'm not sure why I didn't look at the recipes here, but I'm starting to look for simple things. I had diced up too much onion the other day, it was awesome having the extras (I need to do that more often). I gave up mincing garlic by hand and started using the little mincer rolling thing my mom gave to me at Christmas last year. There's a lot of things that BF hates having around (aka single-purpose gadgets).

We are finding our favorites, but BF made a good point last night; all our meals have the same flavor profile and he's getting bored. I know breakfast/lunch is leftovers or the same stuff so I try to mix up dinner a bit. Gotta go find some recipes. Thank you @ShannonM816 for the link. I'm also checking out the recipes here. and oh, the zingy ginger dressing sounds amazing. I love ginger.

@SugarcubeOD You are right. Frame of mind. I've always hated cooking, so I doubt that will change. I'm getting better at grocery shopping (aka faster/cheaper), so I'm happy with that. I think I have settled down. It probably doesn't help that I'm uber stressed at work and burnt out too. This was probably not a good time to start this. Ugh. But I could say that forever, right? So I won't. Be more positive. :)

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2 hours ago, pdxcher said:

I'm not sure why I didn't look at the recipes here, but I'm starting to look for simple things. I had diced up too much onion the other day, it was awesome having the extras (I need to do that more often). I gave up mincing garlic by hand and started using the little mincer rolling thing my mom gave to me at Christmas last year. There's a lot of things that BF hates having around (aka single-purpose gadgets).

We are finding our favorites, but BF made a good point last night; all our meals have the same flavor profile and he's getting bored. I know breakfast/lunch is leftovers or the same stuff so I try to mix up dinner a bit. Gotta go find some recipes.

Okay a couple more hints for you :)  When I'm on my game, I get home from the grocery store and instead of just piling the veggies into the fridge, slamming the door and then forgetting about it until prep day, I chop/slice/mince/prep them and THEN put them away... so for instance, i chop the two bunches of green onions and they go in a container or zipper bag, the parsley/cilantro gets minced up and it goes into a bag/container... same with peppers, big onions, zucchini... it's a bit more work but it means you're touching things less and one of the things about efficiency is learning how to touch the same item as few times as possible, so instead of unpacking the green onions, putting the green onions in the fridge, taking them out, chopping two, putting them back etc... you just unpack to the cutting board, chop and done.

Also, Costco sells minced garlic in a huge jar... I never ever use fresh anymore.

For flavor profiles, your new best friend should be www.meljoulwan.com and her books Well Fed, Well Fed 2 and Well Fed Weeknights (altho I can't personally vouch for the third one).

Positivity is key... good for you for embracing those types of changes too, in addition to changing the food on your plate!

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31 minutes ago, SugarcubeOD said:

 instead of just piling the veggies into the fridge, slamming the door and then forgetting about it until prep day, I chop/slice/mince/prep them and THEN put them away... so for instance, i chop the two bunches of green onions and they go in a container or zipper bag, the parsley/cilantro gets minced up and it goes into a bag/container... same with peppers, big onions, zucchini... it's a bit more work but it means you're touching things less and one of the things about efficiency is learning how to touch the same item as few times as possible, so instead of unpacking the green onions, putting the green onions in the fridge, taking them out, chopping two, putting them back etc... you just unpack to the cutting board, chop and done.

 

You know, I've never actually done this but I think I'm going to give it a try this week.  I've been finding things languishing in the downstairs fridge because I forgot it was there or I don't feel like dealing with it.

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I'm fine with bland food, I don't really care. It's probably because I hate cooking.

If you spent $400 at the grocery you probably bought a bunch of spices? Stuff like coconut oil?

Roasting vegetables is your friend. Buy pre-cut veggies and potatoes, coat in ghee or coconut oil, toss with salt. Throw on a sheetpan. Roast at 425-450 for 20-30 minutes (depending on the veggie). Works for zucchini, cauliflower, carrots, brocolli, green beans, asparagus, brussels, potatoes, sweet potatoes, sugar snap peas. While your veggies roast, grill or sear your protein. Make 2-3 dressing type sauces so you can mix or match flavors. Each night, make enough protein and veggies for tomorrows lunch.  You can get crazy and add seasonings. I'm a foodie. The last 2 weeks of my whole 30 was different combos of sheet pan veggies and chicken or steak. I was constantly a happy camper at meal time. :)

If you put time into something, make extra- make enough dressing for 2-3 nights of salad, enough stew for 2-3 meals. Boil a dozen eggs. 

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I'm (sort of) new-ish as well, and trying to get a handle on the prep work, meal planning and shopping.  I feel like I need to think of this as being easy - I know we all say it can be hard - and it can be.  But maybe by changing how I look at it, I can make it easier.  I can over complicate things.  So, here's what I have been doing the last two weeks, and it helps.

1.  I have a meal planner, and I sit down for 10 minutes with the grocery ads, see what's on sale, and plan my meals that way. I use online resources a lot for dinner and lunch ideas.

2.  I struggle the most with breakfast, and this is a work in progress.  I'm still looking for easy grab and go options, but I have some ideas lined up, and Sunday will be COOK ALL THE FOODS day (like usual). Egg muffins, a frittata or an egg bake of some sort will probably happen.  My 17 year old likes this kind of thing, so helping him eat better makes me feel better.

3.  Make best friends with your crock pot or Instant Pot (pressure cooker).  I bought a pressure cooker on Amazon for not a lot of cash, and it has become a real work horse.  I make pot roast, chipotle pork, Italian beef, etc in it, and it cuts WAY down on cook time. We work full time, and have a 17 year old.  Three days a week we try to get to the gym.  I get home at 4:30 or so, throw dinner in the pressure cooker, pack my gym bag, make hubs a protein smoothie and by 5:30 we are out the door.  Back home around 7:30 and dinner is hot and ready to serve. You can find a lot of great slow cooker and pressure cooker recipes online.

4.  I made a huge batch of soup last night, while I watched TV in the kitchen (after the gym). I have it today for lunch in a thermos, and we will have it tonight for dinner.

5.  My husband is PICKY.  He doesn't do sauces, gravies, casseroles, soups, stews, etc. I always felt like he was so hard to cook for - but he's not.  He's really easy!  So, I make him a protein and a potato and he's happy.  He doesn't eat veggies of any kind, although if pressed, he might eat a salad at a restaurant without dressing. It's just MY thinking that makes it hard to cook for him.  Again, a different approach sometimes makes all the difference. He eats almost the exact same thing every day for lunch - I couldn't do it.  I need something different, but some mornings, I am totally mentally gridlocked on what I might want for lunch. I depend too much on what I'm "in the mood for" at any given time, which can be a minefield if I'm not careful.

6.  When you find a recipe that works, stick with it. You will find loads of ways to switch it up.  This week, I'm making damn fine chicken (nom nom paleo), Cantonese crispy chicken thighs (nom nom paleo), balsamic pot roast, hamburger soup (pioneer woman), madras chicken salad (nom nom paleo), and slow cooker chipotle pork with pineapple slaw (primally inspired) and slow cooker meatballs in marinara.  The chicken salad, dinner leftovers, and soup will come with me for lunches this week.  I also make barbacoa beef- but it works with pork or chicken, too - which is good on a salad, in lettuce leaves like a taco, over cilantro-lime cauli-rice, or on it's own with veggies on the side. It also freezes really well, so you can keep a batch in the freezer for a heat and eat quick dinner.

7.  Ground chicken can be used just like ground beef - add taco seasonings and make a taco salad one night.  Add sesame oil, coconut aminos, ginger, garlic, and some chopped veggies for an Asian dish. You could make a simple hash with sweet potatoes, poblano peppers (or bell peppers), and onion to serve with eggs.

I found a couple blogs with their food logs for all 30 days, which helps me keep my head in the game. I haven't been perfect - but at each meal, I try to be on track. We've had a rough couple of days here and there.  I just start over, let go of it, and press on.

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There are a lot of great suggestions and ideas here.

One thing that helped me stay organized was having a lot of storage containers. I have several of different sizes and they are stackable. I use masking tape and a Sharpie pen for labeling. My refrigerator and freezer have never been neater.  When I make a big batch of chili, for example, I freeze it into 2-portion containers. Emergency meals are always on hand; just thaw, heat, and serve.

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